Retinoblastoma is a rare form of cancer which affects the eye and especially the retina. This cancer is usually present in children below the age of six years and is usually diagnosed in children aged 1 to 2 years. Symptoms include pain in the eyes, diminished or disturbed vision, an opaque and white appearance of the eyes, and a bulge in the eyes. The tumour can spread through the optic nerve to the brain and other parts of the body, especially the bones. Examination for this condition includes an ophthalmic examination, ultrasound of the eyes, CT or MRI of the orbits, and examination of the cerebro- spinal fluid, and possibly bone marrow examination. Treatment of retinoblastoma includes laser surgery, cryotherapy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Removal of the eye is believed to prevent a spread of the tumour from the eyes to the brain and other parts of the body such as lungs and bones. The tumour is generally believed to be incurable if it has spread outside the eye, while it is known to cause blindness in the eye itself.
Ayurvedic herbal treatment for retinoblastoma should be instituted at the earliest in order to bring about the maximum possible improvement, prevent the spread of the tumour outside the eye, and maximise chances for survival. Aggressive treatment can also prevent the tumour spreading from the affected eye to the other eye. Ayurvedic herbal medicines which are useful in the management of retinoblastoma are those medicines which have a strong anti- tumour effect as well as have a specific affinity for the eyes. While these medicines form the mainstay of treatment, other medicines which strengthen the nervous system and have a specific action on the nerve cells are also used in the treatment of this condition. Still other medicines are required to prevent the spread of the tumour through the blood and lymphatic circulation.
As with all cancer and tumour treatments, the addition of immunomodulatory herbal agents is a must in the management of retinoblastoma, since a strong immune system helps in the fight against the tumour, reduces treatment time, improves the overall response and maintains the strength of the affected individual. A combination of all the above-mentioned medicines helps to bring about an early remission, significantly improve the chances for survival, and also prevents a recurrence of the condition. Medicines useful in the treatment of retinoblastoma include Triphala (Three Fruits), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Haridra (Curcuma longa), Yashtimadhu (Glycerrhiza glabra), Saptamrut Loh and Panch-Tikta-Ghrut-Guggulu.
In addition to treating the retinoblastoma tumour, efforts also need to be made to preserve vision in the affected individual to the maximum extent possible. Depending upon the presentation of the tumour and the time of commencement of treatment, herbal medicines are added to the treatment so as minimize damage to the retina as well as other inner structures of the eyes. Damage to vision is due to a direct pressure or displacement of the retina and a spread of the tumour through the optic nerve. Hence, it is logical to start aggressive treatment at the earliest in order to contain the tumour and prevent damage to the eye, which can result in disturbed vision or complete blindness.
Most children affected with retinoblastoma require Ayurvedic herbal treatment for about 15 to 18 months in order to get significant remission from this condition. Prompt treatment obviates the necessity of removing the affected eye, helps bring about an early cure, and improves long-term survival. Ayurvedic herbal treatment thus has a significant role to play in the management and treatment of retinoblastoma.